Monday, March 26, 2018

The Samuels Among Us: Jessica Bates

Jessica Bates and fam. 

During March, I will be interviewing four persons who entered into vocational ministry under the age of 25 and remained in that same position for at least 5 years.   

My prayer is that their stories will encourage you who are hearing the faint whispers of the Holy Spirit. And if you are currently in the tough trenches of ministerial work, know that The Call will sustain you--no matter what! You got this because God's got this! 💪✌❤

I want to thank Kelly Lindsley for naming this month's blog series. He is the husband of my favorite teacher, Catherine Lindsley. He is an amazing contemporary Christain artist, and his lyrics are nearly sacramental. (Can I say that?😆)

Building healthy ministries for children and youth demands a great deal of intuition and a mighty love for the logistical pieces that create the programmatic whole. With this said, the gifts of Jessica Bates are in high demand on the local church level. I learned much from her wisdom below, and I hope you do too, friend.

As one who entered into a full-time ministerial career at a young age, is there something about this profession that makes it weird? If not weird, what makes this type of work unique when compared to other professions? 

There are lots of things that make ministry work unique or weird compared to ‘normal’ jobs. Ministry jobs are fluid, meaning our work won’t always look the same week to week. I’m a full-time Children & Youth Director, often times my hours of work are being done outside the church walls. I’ll meet students for coffee, go to their games or concerts, and we have them over to our house for meals and games. I’m not in the office or at my desk for 40 hours a week like most people in the world are. But that’s the part of my job that I love. Being outside the church walls with our students and seeing them use their talents to bring glory to God.

What is one common misconception of those who serve in full-time ministry settings that you would like to correct? 

Many people get confused when I tell them that my full-time job is children & youth ministry. Students have asked me what I do when it’s not Wednesday. And my husband gets asked all the time what my real job is. Working with students & their parents is my real job. A job that I’m called to and I believe a job that God created me to do. I know it’s hard for people who don’t work in the church to really understand what goes into this job. Many people think that it’s just a Wednesday & Sunday job, but there is so much planning and strategy, and prayer that goes into those 1-2 hours of meeting time prior to and after. And some of that the students, congregation, and parents might not ever see.

What was it about this ministerial “gig” that made you feel called to it? What parts were most in line with your gifts/talents? 

I’ve always wanted to teach. Growing up I used to play school all the time. So naturally when it came time to get serious about my future teaching was where I was headed. I was a pretty active student in my youth group, and our volunteer leaders let me have a big leadership role. Recently I found my old prayer journals where I wrote countless lessons and devotions over scripture. I guess God had been preparing me for ministry long before I knew that’s where I was headed. When I was a sophomore in high school I felt the nudge towards ministry. It wasn’t until I sat down with my Sr. Pastor that I discovered that I could be paid to work with middle and high school kids. After a lot of prayers and with a whole bunch of faith I took the jump into the ministry world. I’m teaching now, just not in a school.

By your 5th year, what percent of your job involved these pieces that brought you there in the first place? 

The teaching part is a big and important part of my job, but it’s not everything. I didn’t realize that until I got into youth ministry how much of the job is bookkeeping, calendaring, strategy, and event planning.

During your first year on the job, who was your mentor? What made him/her a good mentor?

I didn’t have a specific mentor. I did, however, get connected to a group of youth workers in Wichita that has helped me grow as a youth director and as a person. We meet once a month for worship, fellowship, and to learn from each other. I always leave those meetings feeling ready to face the next hurdle at church.

What did your day of Sabbath (rest) look like during the first year? What does it look like now? 

I had several people who stressed the importance of Sabbath in my life. Sabbath day hasn’t changed too much over the years. Every person’s Sabbath is going to look different. Mine currently is filled with things that are life-giving to me.

Did you ever have a moment when you wanted to “throw in the towel” (quit)? Sharing as much as you feel comfortable--what all occurred? 

I think everyone who does church work has had a point in their ministry where they’ve wanted to quit. I’ve had the thought of maybe I’m not really cut out for this job after a particularly hard night of programming.

What changed your mind and kept you in the game/ in line with your vocational calling? 

I always come back ready to go after spending time in prayer. I’m really lucky because I have amazing support at the church from our Pastor and other staff as well as parents and amazing volunteers. It’s those people who help me get through the times where I feel like throwing in the towel. And often it’s them who remind me (whether they realize it or not) that this is my calling and this is the church I’m supposed to be at.

What lesson(s) did you learn from the experience of question 7? 

Ministry isn’t about you. I’ve discovered that when I do things I want to do and not what our students need or what God is guiding me to do that’s when it gets tough and when I start to doubt my calling. I also can’t expect to do ministry by myself. I rely heavily on our volunteer leaders. Many times they are my sounding board as I explore what’s coming.

For those youngsters out there who are feeling a Divine Nudge to enter into full-time ministry, what advice would you offer them? 

Do it! The biggest thing that helped me to get where I am are my internships. I worked with a church for a few years and gained so much experience that I still draw on today. Also, find people that will help you to discern your call into ministry. It wasn’t until I went to my Sr Pastor when I was in the discernment process that I learned I could do youth ministry full time. There are so many facets to ministry. So explore them.